All that remains of Cunningham Park is some playground equipment

Thursday night, I was coaching third base for my daughter’s softball team and in the middle of the game it hit me. What will kids in Joplin do for fun this summer? Will they have a diversion from the devastation and will there be any normalcy to their summer?

With the hard work of the staff at the Joplin Parks and Recreation Department, their full slate of sports and activities will go on after just a week’s worth of delay. On my trip to Joplin, I stopped by the Joplin Sports Complex on the north end of town and the building, while it wasn’t in the path of the tornado, was quiet.

One of the local ball parks that suffered severed tornado damage

I spoke with Michelle Tessman, an administrative assistant who told me it was her first week back in the office since the tornado struck on May 22nd. She said that despite the storm, youth baseball and adult softball leagues will continue the week of June 6th. Tessman wasn’t sure how many of 35 kids who signed up for tee-ball will be on the fields, but she said the adult softball teams were ready to resume their season.

The biggest issue that Tessman will deal with is the cancellation of park facilities for summer barbeques and parties. Tessman said Cunningham Park, the number one rented park, was wiped clean. The only thing that remained when I visited the area was playground equipment and sprinklers from the public pool.

The only other facility that was affected was Memorial Hall which held concert events as well as volleyball and basketball tournaments. Immediately after the tornado, St. John’s Hospital took over the event center as a triage and once they move out, the Joplin public schools will take over. Tessman said it will be at least two years before the building is ready for concerts and sporting events.

Another piece of good news, one of the three public pools opened Friday and a second will open on Saturday. Tessman said it will be a great opportunity for kids to cool off and have some fun while parents work on piecing their lives together.